Alphonse Daudet was born in Nîmes, but his family moved to Lyon nine years later, and in 1857 Daudet moved to Paris. He led a vie de bohème, and was able to begin serious writing thanks to a fairly undemanding day job as personal secretary to the Duke de Morny. He spent time in the south of France and in Algeria, and met Julia Allard, whom he married in 1867. His Lettres de mon moulin appeared two years later; in 1872 he published Tartarin de Tarascon (a French Don Quixote) and L'Arlésienne, from which Bizet would later create an opera. He enlisted in the army during the Franco-Prussian war (which is the setting of this story), but fled the Commune in Paris. The Contes du lundi appeared in 1873. Even though he became seriosly ill in 1878 and was diagnosed with an incurable bone marrow disease in 1884, Daudet continued to write until his death in 1897.
This story is set in Alsace, a region which France and Germany have fought to control.